How to be an encouraging presence in the writing community

If you have been writing and sharing poetry (or any art really) then you know how much encouragement from others can literally ‘give courage’ and also cheer you up, strengthen you and help you keep writing in moments when it would be easier to stop.

Conversely we probably all know what it is like to hear negative or dismissive responses to what we are doing or have written, which may even be uttered thoughtlessly by those closest to us, and how discouraging that can be.

The writing community in general is very supportive and I’d like to suggest a few ways that you can intentionally encourage other writers and poets (also artists, musicians and so on).

Interaction and increased visibility

You can show poets that you appreciate them by positively interacting with their work and increasing its online visibility (that is, by playing your part in getting its message out there, or boosting the signal as it seems to be called in Twitterland).

Some simple and effective ways to do this:

  • Follow the poet
  • Like their post / tweet
  • Comment on the post / tweet
  • Save the post – This may seem unnecessary but this is the most effective step in terms of boosting visibility
  • Share the post in stories / retweet
  • Create a highlights folder

On Instagram you can create a permanent highlights folder of great poems by poets you like. You might introduce someone to some poets they’ll love if they flick though your highlights.

The Instagram algorithm works by registering interactivity so this will increase the visibility of a poet’s work, even if that’s only in a small way.

This graphic shows the levels of engagement with a post and the effectiveness of each. This is from Check Your Privilege, who work to dismantle systems of domination.

If you see a writing workshop or opportunity that you think might benefit a writer you know, then let them know. An amazing poet who I’ve ‘met’ on Twitter not only praised and retweeted my first published poem, but also recommended a lit mag that I’d never heard of as one that I would enjoy. It meant a great deal that somebody would seek out a poem I’d written and take the time to encourage me in such a way.

All writers appreciate encouragement, whether they have decades of experience or whether they are just setting words on paper, so don’t think your encouragement will be wasted when offered to someone further along in the journey and don’t underestimate the power of your encouraging words for someone who’s coming along behind.

All of the above are effective ways to encourage poets and artists online by investing just a few minutes of your time.

Poetry and writing being what it is (ie not financially lucrative), poets often have other small businesses or merchandise available for purchase.

Buying books and merchandise if you are able to is a surefire way to support any artist. 

Review books

You can increase the online visibility of books, newly released songs and so on by reviewing them (formally or informally).

Using a site such as Goodreads to review a book is an excellent way of giving a writer an excuse to continue marketing their book after the hype of the launch day is over. It is better for them to be able to share a positive review than to just plead with people to buy their book! If you are in a position to buy the book from an independent retailer and use their review process, even better!

Equally, you can offer informal reviews or recommend a book online without too much trouble. Find out if the book title has a hashtag already and search for the social media handle of the author. You can then include some thoughts about the book on Instagram stories or as a tweet including the hashtag of the book title and tagging the author. They will then be able to easily share that story or retweet your thoughts in a matter of moments.

I mentioned a book in a blog post which was more about emotions and poetry than it was about the book, but thanked the author while tweeting a link to the blog post and she immediately retweeted my words as did five other strangers. I hadn’t expected that reaction but I can see that it was an effective way for others to ‘boost the signal’ about the book.

Encourage literary magazines

Many lit mags have tiny volunteer teams (or are one-person-bands) so they value encouragement, engagement and increased visibility too!

  • Engage with what they post
  • Celebrate the milestones – 100 followers is a big deal!
  • Thank lit mags for accepting your work, that will encourage others to submit to them
  • Thank lit mags for kind and helpful rejections, this also encourages others to submit to them – everyone prefers receiving rejections which are gentle and constructive
  • If you enjoy an issue, share the post and comment
  • Recommend lit mags you enjoy to others

Writing workshops

Writing workshops are a fantastic way to be challenged, have your eyes opened to new possibilities and benefit from the experience and creativity of other writers, often editors.

Many writing workshops are free of charge to increase accessibility. You can show your appreciation by publicly thanking the workshop organisers and leaders.

Let them know what you found helpful. If you can do it as a soundbite they might even be able to use it for promoting future workshops and you could play a part in persuading others to participate and help them along in their writing journey.

Encourage editors

Editors are people too. They are looking for an excuse to accept your work, not reject it! You can encourage them and show how much you appreciate their hard work by making accepting your work as easy as possible.

  • Do the legwork yourself
  • Research the lit mag theme and remit
  • Follow all submission guidelines
  • Be respectful and polite in your cover letter and any other communications
  • Send your poem as a final edit
  • Immediately notify the editor if a simultaneously submitted poem is accepted elsewhere
  • Accept a rejection letter with grace – Don’t lash out or attempt to prove the editor wrong
  • Thank editors for their time
  • Share about the litmags they run

I’d love to hear some more suggestions of ways to be an encouraging presence. When have you felt most encouraged by others within the writing community?

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